Zimbabwe Diamond Education College (ZDEC) director, Steven Muchenje, said the country is losing out in substantial revenue inflows and employment creation opportunities by not investing in beneficiation of diamonds mined in the country.
Currently, Zimbabwe is exporting rough diamonds and Muchenje said this was prejudicing the country of 80% of the actual value of its diamonds.
Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate stands at well over 80%.
“Failure to invest in diamond research and manpower development is the country’s major setback. Government needs to take the initiative to invest in diamond education institutions as this will ultimately benefit the country,” said Muchenje.
“For instance, 30 000 Belgians are employed in the diamond industry yet that country doesn’t have a single diamond mine. That country earns up to US$39 billion turnover per annum from this industry while Zimbabwe is said to have potential to earn only US$2 billion from the same.”
The world’s main diamond processing and dealing centres are located in Antwerp (Belgium), Mumbai (India), Tel Aviv (Israel), New York (US), and lately Dubai for distribution in the Middle East.
Muchenje said that 50% of the world’s rough diamonds pass through Antwerp (Belgium) while eight in 10 of the world diamonds are also destined there.
Muchenje’s call for beneficiation of diamonds comes at a time government said it would open satellite offices in Belgium and UAE to facilitate the sale of diamonds from Marange. Belgium and the UAE are among the world’s biggest diamond buyers.
The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme defines rough diamonds as diamonds that are unworked or simply sawn, cleaved or bruted.
Zimbabwe has seven diamond mines operating, namely Diamond Mining Corporation, Anjin, Marange Resources, Mbada Diamonds, Rio Tinto, Sino Zim and Murowa, but Muchenje questioned how much the mines are collectively contributing to the fiscus.
ZDEC shareholder Lovemore Kurotwi also questioned why the country should push for the sale of rough diamonds rather than processed gemstones adding that enhancing education and knowledge about diamonds would be critical to the nation’s development.
“We simply need to create favourable policies for trade in diamonds within Zimbabwe rather than establishing offices elsewhere,” said Kurotwi, adding that Zimbabwe is contributing substantially to the growth of those economies.
African countries reportedly produce 53% of diamonds for the world market while a few countries in Europe produce the remainder.
University of Zimbabwe lecturer Dr Dennis Shoko said that there is an urgent need for government to open up the diamond fields for exploration and research purposes in order to determine available reserves.